TORONTO -- They lined up outside Rogers Centre by the thousands early on Sunday afternoon, hoping to collect one of the Josh Donaldson bobbleheads being handed out. The man of the hour sent the paying crowd and their tchotchkes home in style, launching a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning that lifted the Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory over the Yankees.
"I think we needed it," said Toronto manager John Gibbons, after earning the series split. "I think it would have been a kick in the teeth had we not won that one. You lose three out of four at home, that's never good -- primarily because of where we're sitting right now."
Donaldson's sixth home run of the season came off reliever Tyler Clippard, after starters Luis Severino and Marcus Stroman engaged in a pitchers' duel that was as advertised -- with both hurlers limiting their opponent to two runs. Matthew Holliday drove in both runs off Stroman, denting the center-field wall with a fourth-inning double and legging out a sixth-inning fielder's choice.
Justin Smoak tied the game in the sixth with a two-run homer off Severino, forcing the right-hander to settle for a no-decision, after throwing 98 pitches over seven innings. Severino struck out seven with a walk, scattering six hits while hitting one batter -- Devon Travis, who left the game a half-inning later with a left hand injury.
"Any time you get a starter to pitch like Sevvy did today, you've got to win those games," Clippard said. "They played a good baseball game, as well. It's obviously frustrating. But we're playing good, so it's not the end of the world. That doesn't ease the pain of the loss, [however]."
Stroman was charged with two runs on five hits over six innings, walking one and striking out four. The Blue Jays finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and were 0-for-24 over the four-game series, though they got long balls when they needed them in the finale. Toronto finished its 10-game homestand with a 7-3 record.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Smoaked: Severino was cruising through the first five innings, but Smoak made him pay for a two-out single to Kendrys Morales in the sixth, launching an 85.1-mph slider over the wall in center field. Smoak's team-leading 14th homer was calculated to have an exit velocity of 105.1 mph, making it his second longest of the season.
"It's amazing. It's every day," Donaldson said of this teammate's performance. "That's what we need. We need guys that are going to come and have great at-bats, professional at-bats all day. He's in one of those zones, right now. When he gets those pitches to hit, he's very rarely missing." More >
Holliday hustles: Stroman had an emphatic reaction on the mound after Holliday legged out the back end of a potential double-play ball in the sixth, permitting Brett Gardner to score the second Yankees run. The 37-year-old beat throw down the line, as Troy Tulowitzki and Travis couldn't turn the DP quickly enough, but the Yanks would have just one baserunner the rest of the way.
"We just weren't able to get a whole lot of guys on base," Gardner said. "Stroman was on top of his game. His slider, his breaking ball, his cutter, he did a good job of getting ahead of guys. He just had good stuff today -- and unfortunately we didn't score enough runs."
"I don't know how he could pitch any better than he's pitched. I knew Smitty was good. I've seen him on the other side of the field. I've never seen him this good." -- Gibbons, on Toronto reliever Joe Smith, who pitched a clean eighth inning and has now struck out 42 batters in 27 2/3 innings
Yankees: Following an off-day on Monday, the Yankees return home to open a three-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 6.34 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener, opposite left-hander Thomas Pomeranz (5-3, 4.24 ERA).
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (0-3, 4.50 ERA) will open Toronto's series in Oakland on Monday at 10:05 p.m. ET, making his second start since being activated from the disabled list. He was limited to just four innings on 81 pitches his last time out, but should be closer to a full workload in Oakland. Happ's strikeouts are up over the small sample size of 2017, but home runs have been an issue -- as he's allowed six in just 20 innings.
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